There is little good to say on the education front, according to a report on the numbers of children who are out of school. The Pakistan Education Statistics Report 2013-14 was issued recently, and it presents a dismal picture — though it must be said that the numbers of children out of school has fallen from 6.7 million in 2012-13 to 6.2 million currently. Whilst we welcome that improvement, the fact remains that Pakistan is still deep in an education crisis. With a growth rate of around 4.1 per cent, education expenditure should be higher than the 2.5 per cent of GDP that it is, a figure that in real terms the country has been stuck at — or lower — for many years. The decrease in numbers out of school is being attributed to the National Plan of Action that was launched in 2013. The intervention is worth Rs188 billion over four years and is targeted at the enrollment of 5.1 million children aged 5-9.
There are 11.2 million male primary school-age children in the country and 2.6 million of them do not attend school, and 53 per cent of those live in Punjab — a figure that reflects poorly on the wealthiest and most populous province. There are 10.4 million girls of primary school age, 3.6 million of whom are not in school and 43 per cent of those are from Punjab. All of the provinces have education mountains to climb but there are some encouraging signs. A review of the six ‘Education for All’ (EFA) goals between 2000 and 2015 tells us that Pakistan has slightly narrowed the education gender gap and there are 87 girls enrolled for every hundred boys in 2012. Much is going to rest on money. The government has committed to increasing education expenditure to four per cent of GDP but that is clearly not going to happen in the immediate future, and even if it did the impact would only be felt several years hence. There remains a capacity issue in all the provinces, and simply throwing money at education solves nothing. Education remains our most vital battle.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2015.